Five Thousand Kilometres Through France

In the trail of the Young Lawrence of Arabia


TE Lawrence - His Cycle Journeys, 1908

In 1908, the young TE Lawrence made the longest and most ambitious cycle journey yet, around 4000 kilometres. In the summer vacation between his first and second year at university he spent xx weeks cycling around pretty much the whole of France.

In 1908, in the summer holidays between his first and second year at university, then aged nearly 20, he set off on an extraordinary journey of some 2500 miles in 50 days, visiting more than 50 medieval castles and covering much of France.

Lawrence was collecting information, making sketches and sometimes photographing castles, abbeys and other medieval fortifications, initially because of his boyhood interest but later with a sharper focus, as research for his undergraduate thesis.

He would also collect and often send postcards, again as a record for his research. It’s worth adding that in 1909, between his second and third year at univrsity, he walked for an extraordinary 1000 miles in Lebanon and Syria, looking at the crusader castles, over a period of three months: that’s an average 30 miles a day in 40 degree heat, on unmade roads in extremely unforgiving country. Her arrived back three weeks late for his university term.

These journeys are recorded in his letters home, which he would often write on Sundays. The letters were usually addressed to his mother, though they were intended to be read by his father and the rest of the family. They also recorded useful notes for himself and his later studies (see more about his thesis).

 In his letters Lawrence comments quite regularly on his cycling, from the punctures he repaired to his ability to cover long distances. See more about Young Lawrence the Cyclist.